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NASA Space Science

Kepler Mission Finds 752 Extrasolar Planet Candidates 103

An anonymous reader lets us know about the initial release of data from the Kepler spacecraft, launched in the spring of 2009, which has been hunting extrasolar planets. The instrument has found 752 candidates to examine in its first 43 days of operation. This is exciting news, because even if only half of the possibilities pan out as exoplanets (as the Kepler team expects) the results would still almost double the count of known planets. And some of the new ones could be Earth-sized, or not too much larger. Controversy has erupted however because NASA has decided to allow the Kepler team to withhold 400 of the best candidates for its own examination, releasing about 350 others to the worldwide community. The reasons for this are complicated and the New York Times does a good job of digging into the issue of proprietary vs. public data. first reported two months ago on the decision to hold back some of the data.
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Kepler Mission Finds 752 Extrasolar Planet Candidates

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  • Data Archives (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @08:15AM (#32589298) Journal
    Here is the notice they are releasing potential extrasolar planetary data [] and the press release saying that it's data on 156,000 stars []. You can search the data [] or just download the tarfiles [] via anonymous FTP:

    cd /pub/kepler/lightcurves/tarfiles

    If you do a search there appears to be anywhere from half to two thirds of the data that are marked as proprietary data which their search help gives a brief explanation of:

    Clicking on entries in this column will mark the entry for retrieval. To mark all entries, click one of the buttons labelled 'Mark All','Mark public', or 'Mark Proprietary'. (Unmarking all entries can be done the same way using the appropriate button.) For missions with proprietary data, the mark button element will have a yellow background and a '@' symbol to indicate data sets not yet public.

    I think the majority of those that are unreleased are simply Q2 data or later since this data is just from the first 42 days of the mission. What's available as the tar file appears to be all Q0 and Q1 data so I'm not certain if the 400 that are 'censored' are included in that or not. If they are withheld it seems odd that the announcement, release notes and README file make no mention of this. Still, we're talking 12+ GB of compressed data here.

    Overall and despite the reported censoring of the best candidates, I personally applaud their transparency here that surpasses anything another government related organization (or even scientific field for that matter) exhibits. Alright, maybe CERN or the LHC will be as transparent or more transparent but this is still pretty impressive.

  • Government research (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @09:35AM (#32589794)

    I work in government research (not NASA, but a different department) and withholding data for a time period (usually 6 months or so) is the norm -- the people who do the research want to receive credit for that research, rather than publishing the data, someone else writing on it and publishing and receiving credit without doing the research.

  • Re:Data Archives (Score:5, Informative)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @10:03AM (#32590052) Homepage

    If you do a search there appears to be anywhere from half to two thirds of the data that are marked as proprietary data

    Overall and despite the reported censoring of the best candidates

    It's long been NASA policy that the PI and his team (the guys who've spent the last ___ years or decades bringing the instrument to fruition) get first crack at the data, which usually amounts to six months exclusive access. After that, the data is publicly released.
    So it's neither censorship nor proprietary data in the usual senses either term are used in, so please be a bit careful in choosing your verbiage and making implications.

  • Re:Woooow! oh my.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Convector ( 897502 ) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @10:15AM (#32590154)
    If by "cancel", you mean "increase the budget of []", then yes. It's only Constellation that's getting canceled. Science is getting a boost.
  • Re:Data Archives (Score:5, Informative)

    by toby34a ( 944439 ) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @10:27AM (#32590296)
    Mod this guy up. NASA will release the data in its entire form eventually, and in perpetuity once they get the first paper out of it. This is the same whenever NASA puts up a new satellite - they get the data, analyze it, publish the initial results, and release the entire record, for free, for anyone in the world to download. So there's an embargo period- it's not long, and it's not that significant. They are better at putting out free data (as is NOAA/NWS) then anyone else in the world- the Europeans and Chinese are exceptionally hard at getting data out of without paying for it or knowing someone behind the scenes. Anyone can download a GOES image or MODIS image from NOAA or NASA in the span of minutes to hours. It takes days (or months) to get SEVIRI or MERRA imagery from EUMETSAT.
  • Re:Data Archives (Score:3, Informative)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @03:52PM (#32594078)

    Lets get one thing straight.


    My tax money (and yours) paid for it and the salaries of everyone who worked on it.

    On that note however, I still think its just fine and dandy that they get the first shot at looking at the data they busted their asses to get, especially since the reality of it is, they probably know at least 100 times more about what they are looking at than anyone on /.

    I'm fine standing at the back of the line since I only paid a few cents to the project (like everyone else) and I'm highly unlikely to discover anything anyway. Let them get the credit they deserve, but make no mistake, I already paid dues for accessing the data. Without me (my tax money), it wouldn't exist.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire